“There are gigantic trees that have grown tall into the winds and the clouds over the thousands of years of their lives,
their tops are rustled and tossed by the mists of the atmosphere! ~ C. Joyce Bell
Trees are our friends.
There are so many ways in which people celebrate them.
Who didn’t hear Joyce Kilmer’s poem when they were growing up?
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
The Platters even made a doo-wop song to this poem and it was one of their biggest hits:
We’ve also heard the phrase (sometimes used derogatorily) “Tree Hugger,” but that phrase actually has a noble beginning. In 1730 a group of people literally clung to trees to keep them from being cut down for what was the 18th century version of sprawl.
“These ‘tree huggers’ were then killed by the foresters cutting down the trees, however their lives were not lost in vain. A royal decree was established that outlawed any trees to be chopped down in Bishnoi villages.” ~ Green Grounds
I myself was married to a tree hugger—not a literal one, as he didn’t physically hug trees, but after having been a logger in his early days, he had an epiphany and came to know and love them as beings that were a large part of the natural world.
There is even a form of tree, or forest, meditation, that takes tree appreciation to the next level:
Shinrin-yoku, which translates as “forest bathing” or the medicine of being in the forest, is all the rage in Japan and South Korea. There are 44 official shirin-yoku accredited forests in Japan where folks go to escape civilization and engage in mindful forest relaxation as a source for restoration and healing. South Korea has invested $140 million in a new center on forest therapy. The effects are powerful.
And now, we are seeing the everyday, modern version of tree hugging.
The city of Melbourne assigned trees email addresses so citizens could report problems. Instead, people wrote thousands of love letters to their favorite trees.
The e-mails are incredible. They are everything Kilmer wrote poems about, everything my husband recognized in his epiphany, everything the Bishnoi hugged trees about and everything the Shrinrin-yoku meditation talks about.
And they leave no doubt that overall, down deep inside, in one way or another, everyone is a tree hugger—probably even you.
Author’s Note: Journalist and poet Joyce Kilmer was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 1886 and was known for poetry that celebrated the common beauty of the natural world.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Marina del Castell at Flickr